A few months back, when we were considering where to go for a week’s holiday, one place we looked into was Norfolk Island. While chose Lord Howe Island, the idea of going to Norfolk Island still appealed, but weren’t getting around to arranging a trip. Then one day I did a search for “artist holiday Norfolk Island” and the first link that came up was for a watercolour painting trip in October.
Almost everything was included in the package – I just had pay for one leg of the flights and organise insurance. It was nice not to have to do a lot of research and bookings, and assume that the artist would have vetoed the accommodation. Paul was okay with coming along on a holiday where I’d be painting a lot, since the teacher would know where all the nice views were that he could photograph, and he could take our car and go exploring if he wanted to.
The first day we went out painting, it started to rain. We retired to a function room at the accommodation to finish our paintings from photos. The subject was Bloody Bridge:
Despite the name, that isn’t gore in the creek but a water plant that had died due to lack of water, which seemed ironic considering why we had to abandon the spot.
The second location was St Barnabus’ Mission Chapel. It was a windy day, but less so there than in more open areas like the beach:
That night I did a sketch of one of the whale oil lamps in the chapel. It’s sideways here:
On the righthand page I painted a big, rusty buoy at the front of the accommodation.
The next location was Slaughter Bay. It was sunny but very windy, so we sought shelter within the penal colony walls. Rather than doing a painting on a board, which would catch the wind, I painted in my sketchbook.
However, the wind played a trick on me, flipping over a few pages without me realising before I slipped them open, which meant I was obliged to fill in three spreads before I left Norfolk Island.
We had an afternoon to spend at the agricultural show, which was fun but didn’t take up the rest of the day so I suggested to Paul that we go exploring. We found our way to Anson Bay, where I found a good, sheltered spot to work.
The water is mostly white because it was so rough it was nearly all foam.
That evening we had a BBQ at Emily Bay. I did a really quick sketch of the sun going down. It was very rushed, what with the light changing and the wind so strong it kept pushing my water cup across the park bench I was sitting on.
The next day, the location Belinda picked was… Anson bay. So to do something different, Paul and I walked down the steep track to the beach, and I painted in my sketchbook.
The following day we were back at Slaughter Bay, but this time to paint the rotting boat hulls on the shore.
I was seeing some rather peculiar colours – green shadows and lurid yellow grass anyone? As we headed home I realised I’d had my sunglasses on the whole time. Later, in our room, I over-painted with Ultramarine in the hope of alleviating the crazy green cast.
We had a tour and free afternoon the next day. I must have been sitting right over the back wheels on the bus, so ended up with a protesting back and a headache. After a bit of food and a rest, I felt better and decided I needed a walk to straighten things out. We went to do the walk at 100 Acres Reserve, and near the end stopped at a park bench so I could paint a different sort of scene to beaches and historical subjects.
That meant I’d filled the gap in my sketchbook. I could have stopped there, but I did add another spread later. Before then, we had our last painting session at Cemetery Bay:
My aim, other than having fun, was to get more familiar and confident with watercolours so I could do better sketchbook art, and I feel like those last two pieces show some success. I learned some new things about the medium and ways to apply it, like that some pigments are opaque and how that affects mixing, and that watercolour doesn’t have to be all about trying to get pigment to disperse in puddles of water in a pleasing way.
On the day we headed home we had several hours to fill, so I did these two vehicles from photos on my phone. The purple tractor was at a lavender farm, and the mini utes are everywhere on the island:
Overall it was a great trip, and so nice to hang out with a lovely group of fellow artists. Because I was painting so much, Paul and I didn’t get to see all of the island, so there’s more to experience should we ever go back.
I’m finding these week-long trips a nice length – enough for a change of scene but not being away from home very long. We both agreed that we wouldn’t do a package artist holiday together again, but Paul is fine with waiting while I do a spread in my sketchbook on a holiday we arrange and take together, and I am more confident that I could go on artist holidays on my own.
With that in mind I’ve started doing some research into the next island we want to visit. Already, I can see plenty of potential painting locations, as well as more attractions than I realised were on offer. And I’m tweaking my painting kit to take on Belinda’s advice, and a few changes that might make it lighter to carry and easier to use.